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  1. #1
    cliveh's Avatar
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    35mm negative printed on a diffuser or condenser enlarger

    I know this is an old chestnut that has probably been discussed infinitum before on APUG, but I’m interested in any new opinions. When printing, I use both a condenser and diffuser enlarger. However, when printing a 35mm negative which has slight under exposure, but developed with sufficient contrast, is the snap of a print produced on a condenser preferable to one produced on a diffuser (ignoring dust issues)? I think yes and over many years I have noticed that the best of my student printers using 35mm gravitate to a condenser enlarger.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  2. #2

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    This is going to be interesting.

  3. #3
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    For perhaps the most passionate opinion, see "Fred Picker" and "callier effect". As with all of Mr. Picker's opinions, wear a cup.

  4. #4

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    this problem thin shadow, normal highlight) will not be a issue for either enlarger. from my experience, It is the other way around. over exposed and over developed negs, that make it difficult to print with"snap"!!. if your shadows are a little thin, I am assuming 1/2 stop? under, then I guess you will get some good blacks, since there is less there. I can not say for sure, because I do not know the C.I. I mean where are you highlights compared? did you have a normal scene to begin with? then give normal dev? or did you have a low contrast scene to begin with? or did you have a high contrast scene? did you add or substract dev. time, what was your aggitation like? do you have good micro contrast, but not good over all contrast? what developer are you using? how much carbonate do you have grams/L? how much restrainer are you using? I think many people/beginners gravitate to condenser because they do not know how to control anything else (film developer/film, paper developer, paper, toning. and "THAT" (meaning condenser- 5 filter) contrast impresses them. getting a good black. you can acheive delicate highlights, smooth tonality+ excellent blacks on either, if you know what you are doing. whats easier????????????? who knows, a micro point.

  5. #5

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    They're probably using condenser enlargers because they got them old and cheap! And I personally cannot think of any negative I couldn't
    print using a diffused light source. Once in awhile someone will want to preserve some very distinct visible grain effect; but many people who
    do own condenser heads alter them for diffusion them anyway. There are decades of arguments over this subject in print, but much of the logic
    seems obsolete now that very high quality variable-contrast papers are commonplace, along with fancy developer tweaks with accomplish the
    same kind of thing with less pain.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noble View Post
    This is going to be interesting.
    I'm betting on more ridiculous than interesting.

  7. #7

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    It's boring. I have two condenser enlargers and two diffused light source (dichroic) enlargers. The difference in results is negligible. the main difference is that the condenser enlargers are brighter, offering shorter exposures. Maybe a slight difference in contrast, but that's all.

  8. #8
    L Gebhardt's Avatar
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    The denser the negative the more contrast difference you will see between the two. I get about a 1/2 to 3/4 of a grade more contrast from the condenser head with my normal negatives. It also seems that the condenser alters the effective shape of the curve a bit over diffusion, so it's not always possible to match prints between the two; you can get any two points to match, but not the entire image. That's just my observation, but I haven't seen it described elsewhere, so maybe it's user error or something unique to my system. Neither is consistently better than the other.

    The sharpness issue is overblown in my mind. I can see it, but its very slight. So is the dust issue. I need to spot on both.

  9. #9
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    My gut tells me that 35mm developed to slightly low contrast and printed on higher contrast paper through a condenser enlarger and an APO lens - this is how to get the most 35mm quality.

    Today, I'm hoping to get 0.62 CI from some rolls of TMY-2... And I plan to print them on Grade 2 paper with a diffuse light source.

  10. #10

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    We'll need to dig Fred Picker up to answer this :-) Seriously though, regarding sharpness, the sharpest prints I have ever made were from PMK developed FP4+ printed through a colour head. Regarding contrast, conventional wisdom says to always reduce development times from what the manufacturer recommends. In my experience, if printing through a colour head, this is bad advice, I find that the manufacturers advice is pretty much spot on for colour heads. Condenser enlargers are another matter and need slightly reduced development but as David Vestal found, the resulting prints cannot be told apart.
    It is said that we remember the important things, if true, why photograph? I forget, so I photograph.

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